Yesterday Momma told me to pack my bags ’cause we’re going to see Grandpa in Elko. She doesn’t realize I already have a bag packed. Got a duffel bag under my bed next to the stack of report cards I’ve been saving. We’re supposed to get those report cards signed by our parents, but I told the art teacher, Ms. Jones, that Momma died last fall so no one bugs me about that, anyway. The duffel bag’s got enough candy bars for a few days of eating and then my favorite sweater, Stripes, and some jeans. I don’t like that Stripes is dedicated to my escape plan, ’cause I never get to wear it anymore. But I figure if I finally get up the guts to run away, I’ll wanna take that with me.
“LILY!” That’s Momma.
“You better pack up now. We have a long drive and I gotta make a stop at the pharmacy.”
When Momma says pharmacy, she really means her drug-dealer’s trailer. That man, Steve, has never worn nothin’ pure-white like a lab coat in his life. When she makes a stop there, she takes at least an hour getting her prescriptions. Then she floats out of that trailer with a blessing from a dark angel; all calm but she’s not really there. I don’t know which Momma I prefer, the dope-sick momma or the blessed one.
You’re probably wondering where a fourteen-year-old girl like me is fixin’ to escape to with a duffel bag full of candy. Well, I’ll tell you. I don’t know. I just know I have to get out of this place. When I picture leaving, I have a hard time imagining anything past the shutting of the screen door and walking away from this shithole neighborhood.
Last fall, Ma overdosed for the third time. That’s when I decided I had to get outta here for good. When I told Ms. Jones Momma died, I didn’t lie. She really did die, and then she came back to life when I stuck the Narcan up her nose. I watched that woman get reborn three times, and she never did a thing with those extra chances. The dark angels keep calling her back. I wonder what they tell her when she’s dead.
After that, I knew I needed to get reborn, too. Use the chances she wasted. I want to be someone like those influencers on Instagram. Travel the world looking beautiful and feeling beautiful. Every day would be a fresh start and no Momma to speak of.
“LILLAAAYY! Let’s GO! Doc’s waitin’.”
Doc is Steve.
“I’m coming! Just let me get my shoes on. You want me going to Elko without shoes?”
“I don’t give a fuck what you do, Lily. I’ll be in the car.” She grabs her fake Louis Vuitton bag and slams the screen door. It bounces back open and creaks like it always does.
When Ma goes to Steve’s she makes me come with her so I can drive her home, ’cause she can’t do shit when she gets well. Plus, she doesn’t like staying around Steve when she’s high. I think he touches her when she’s nodding off but she won’t admit that. That’s just what I think.
Our car is twelve years older than I am. It’s a 1994 Plymouth Colt that Mom’s boyfriend bought her back in the day. Mom used to pick men that would take care of her, but now she’s too old and men don’t want to take care of a middle-aged junkie. I don’t blame them. I don’t like taking care of her, either. On the passenger seat of the car is half a pack of Pyramids. I sit down real lightly on top of them, hoping Momma won’t notice they’re there so I can take em’.
It’s January but it’s eighty degrees outside. Killeen doesn’t cool down much but it’s hotter than it should be this time of year. The Colt’s A/C has been out since I was nine, and I’m not looking forward to this long-ass drive to Elko. I’m so sick of driving across the country to get money. Grandpa makes Momma come to his house if she wants cash, so we make the trip every few months to get by.
She pulls out of the skinny driveway and I hear the chimes that hang from our porch. I want this to be the last time I hear them. I want this to be the last time I look at that nasty green carpet leading up to the front door. Last time I see Steve’s fucking face. Last time I worry about Momma dying and it being my fault ’cause I’m at school or the grocery store and I can’t watch over her.
Every time we get to Steve’s, she pulls the sun visor down and looks in the mirror while she puts on bright red lipstick. I don’t know why she even tries.
“Okay, baby. I’ll be just a minute. You make sure it’s on that station I like when I get back. Then it’s you and me and the open road.”
She’s so much sweeter when she’s about to pick up. I fucking hate it.
“Tell Steve to eat shit.”
“Sure, baby. Whatever you like.”
Her eyes are foggy and it’s like she’s high already.
Fiddling with the radio, I skip her favorite channel but I land on that Incubus song she likes. I like it too, but I pretend I don’t. “Drive,” I think it’s called.
I light one of the Pyramids and start singing along.
I don’t really know what takes over me, but I move to the driver’s seat and start the car. I check to see if Ma or Steve hear it start, but no one comes lookin’ out any windows. I back out as fast as I can without running into the neighbor’s Honda, and just drive off.
I don’t even look back.